Shakespeare’s Restless World

Shakespeare’s Restless World

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor presents Shakespeare's Restless World. The 20-part series looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare's audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period.

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All episodes (21)

  • Shakespeare Goes Global

    Fri, 11 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    From a theatre on the banks of the Thames, Shakespeare's words have gone global. In the final programme, Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, studies a volume of the Complete Works of Shakespeare that consoled the inmates of Robben Island, including one Nelson Mandela.

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  • The Theatres of Cruelty

    Thu, 10 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with the brutalities of torture. Traitors were hanged, cut down while still alive and their bodies hacked to pieces in front of blood-spattered crowds. The relic of an eye, encased in silver, was created after one Catholic member of such a crowd managed to grab the eye of Edward Oldcorne, a gentle Catholic priest executed in 1606. This gruesome relic serves as a spine-chilling reminder that the gruesome scenes in King Lear, Titus Andronicus and beyond would have been disconcertingly close to the real deal.

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  • London Becomes Rome

    Wed, 9 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    King James I's coronation transported Londoners to another world. The deprivations waged by the plauge were temporarily forgotten. Across the City of London, seven towering triumphal arches stood 90 feet above the peering crowds. These elaborate displays of street theatre survive in a book published in 1604 called The Arches of Triumph, a sort of souvenir guide of the day.

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  • Plague and the Playhouse

    Tue, 8 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Plague was a deadly threat for England and an almighty challenge for James I. In 1603, a fresh epidemic swept through London forcing the theatres to close for almost a year. Join Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, as he surveys a plague proclamation.

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  • A Time of Change, A Change of Time

    Mon, 7 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Perceptions of time were starting to shift in Shakespeare's day. To illustrate this, Neil MacGregor explores the workings of a chiming clock made in Blackfriars in 1598. There are over 80 references to clocks in his plays, making it clear to us that 'Shakespearean' time was well on its way to being modern time.

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  • The Flag That Failed

    Fri, 4 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    A symbolic act of union proved a lot harder than it looked. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the problems of creating a flag that expressed the union of a Great Britain.

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  • Disguise and Deception

    Thu, 3 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Deception and religion, cross-dressing and travelling salesmen are all unpacked via a pedlar's trunk. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, reviews the lives of those who travelled England's roads.

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  • From London to Marrakech

    Wed, 2 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Sunken gold from West Africa sheds light on the complex relationship Elizabethan England had with the Moors of the Mediterranean. But behind the glistening gold lies a more disturbing tale of xenophobia, leading to the eventual expelling of Moors from Elizabethan England. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.

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  • Sex and the City

    Tue, 1 May 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    A delicate glass goblet reveals the twin seductions of Venice: its sought-after luxuries and its equally sought-after lecherous women. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, visits Venice - a melting pot of nationalities, religions, classes and cultures all existing within this magnificent city built on water.

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  • Treason and Plots

    Mon, 30 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    A tabloid history of Shakespeare's England, told through a collection of contemporary accounts of plots to murder Elizabeth I and James I - A Thankfull Remembrance of God's Mercy. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.

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  • Toil and Trouble

    Fri, 27 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    A foiled witches' plot to kill the king - and an unusual gift of thanks. Witches were associated with James VI, through the vastly popular publication about the trials, News from Scotland, and most famously in Macbeth, the Scottish play that features three ‘black and midnight hags’ at the centre of the action. Neil MacGregor presents.

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  • New Science, Old Magic

    Thu, 26 Apr 12

    Duration:
    15 mins

    The part played by magic in state and on stage

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  • City Life, Urban Strife

    Wed, 25 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Unlocking the language of social difference and social control. Neil MacGregor explores the life of London's apprentices and Shakespeare's groundlings through a woollen cap.

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  • Ireland: Failures in the Present

    Tue, 24 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    The Irish were largely absent from Shakespeare's stage but never far from the public's minds. The war in Ireland was the great military crisis of the Elizabethan regime and almost resulted in failure for England. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.

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  • Europe-Triumphs of the Past

    Mon, 23 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Reminders of England's glorious history were kept ever present in the minds of the people. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the battle gear of the heroic warrior king, Henry V.

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  • Swordplay and Swagger

    Fri, 20 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Urban violence was a problem for the inhabitants of Shakespeare's London. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the murky world and drunken feuds of Thames life with the aid of a rapier and dagger found on its banks.

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  • Life Without Elizabeth

    Thu, 19 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    As Elizabeth I aged, the succession was the hottest topic of the day. Open discussion was banned, but a portrait of the Tudor dynasty from 1571 demonstrates the power of metaphor and allegory in exploring such sensitive subject matter. And on stage, Shakespeare too was exploring ideas of dynasty – but behind the veil of ancient Rome and historical England. Presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.

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  • Snacking Through Shakespeare

    Wed, 18 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    A theatre-goer's fork excavated from the site of the Rose Theatre on London’s South Bank brings us closer to the theatre-going experience and the snacks the audience would have enjoyed. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explains.

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  • Communion and Conscience

    Tue, 17 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    The Stratford Chalice is a communion cup that Shakespeare may well have used. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, sheds light on the dramatic religious changes that came in the aftermath of the Reformation.

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  • England Goes Global

    Mon, 16 Apr 12

    Duration:
    14 mins

    How Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe changed the way Shakespeare's audiences viewed the world and their country's place in it. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, reveals how a medal commemorating this voyage demonstrates how England was engaging with the whole world.

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  • Welcome

    Tue, 27 Mar 12

    Duration:
    1 min

    Welcome to this new BBC podcast. If you subscribe to the podcast feed, you should receive the first episode of this series automatically within the next seven days. To find other podcasts from the BBC, visit www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts

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